On Monday, October 29th 2012, Indonesian and Asian media outlets, including the Jakarta Post and Antara News Agency reported about a controversial advertisement in Malaysia relating to female Indonesian migrant workers that provocatively read, “Indonesian maids now on SALE!” The advertisement understandably caused outrage amongst Indonesians and a response of strong criticism from both the Indonesian and Malaysian governments.
Former Vice Chairman of the Indonesian House of Representatives, Zaenal Maarif gave a statement, highlighting that the Indonesian maids on sale was happening in reality rather than being a mere ad and questioning why the Indonesian government would rant on these recent advertisement when it had long-known about the deplorable conditions of Indonesian migrant workers. There are around 2.5 million Indonesian migrant workers in Malaysia -nearly 80% of them are women – and millions of others across the world who are treated as economic commodities and face abuse, torture, and even murder at the hands of their employees. There is mass dehumanization. Despite all this, in July 2012 the Indonesian government presented as a proud achievement the inflow of remittances brought in by migrant workers to their home country which reached Rp 65 trillion in 2012, considering it a positive contribution to economic growth in Indonesia. Huge numbers of Indonesian women are forced to migrate for work due to desperate poverty. This is despite Indonesia being praised as a new Asian economic power by many Western governments due to its economic growth. This reflects capitalism’s defining characteristic of providing wealth for the few while the masses go hungry.
In Bangladesh, Pakistan, and other parts of the Muslim world, millions of women also face back-breaking economic exploitation to provide for themselves and their families due to failed capitalist and man-made economic systems that have generated mass poverty, treated their women like economic goods, and have failed to generate sufficient employment for the men of society to adequately maintain their families.
Dr Nazreen Nawaz the Women’s Representative of the Central Media Office of Hizb-ut Tahrir commented in response to this dehumanization of women in the Muslim world with the following:
1. Despite the Indonesian government’s criticism of this Malaysian advertisement, it is its failed capitalist economic policies that has pushed millions of its people into desperate poverty, and created mass male unemployment, forcing so many of its women to seek employment abroad for survival, laying the path for their economic exploitation and mistreatment. 1 in every 54 Indonesian women work abroad to help the family finances, many stripped away from their children, causing them to compromise their important role as mothers and nurturers of the future generation. Furthermore, Indonesia’s high economic growth has failed to solve the extreme poverty within its society, providing indisputable proof of the erroneous basis and misguided nature of Capitalism’s claim, that “economic growth is the primary means to improve public welfare.” Instead of generating prosperity for the people and raising their standard of living, the capitalist economic system adopted by Indonesia in actuality widens the social inequality of society and increases the severity of its poverty. The capitalist system has proven time and again to concentrate wealth in the hands of the few while impoverishing the masses.
2. The capitalist system, implemented in the West, in Indonesia, Malaysia and across the Muslim world views everything as a matter of supply and demand and securing profit as the primary goal of society. This dehumanizes women and men to nothing but economic commodities that bring financial benefit to the country – to use and abuse as desires dictate – regardless of the harmful physical and mental impact upon individuals, or the detrimental social consequences upon the family unit and society overall. This is an ideology that consistently places profit over people, and finance over families. In addition, high remittance from female migrant workers is not a mark of a successful government but rather a failed one that has been unable to provide sufficiently for its women, nor recognize its heavy duty of financially maintaining the poor.
3. In stark contrast to capitalism, Islam does not view the woman as an economic commodity but as a human being that should be protected and financially provided for always by their male relatives or by the state so that they can fulfil their vital duty as wives as mothers, while at the same time permitting them to seek employment if they so wish. They should at no time face economic or social pressures to work, such that their home responsibilities are compromised, or such that they are burdened with the oppressive condition of being both breadwinner and home-maker for their family.
4. The millions of Indonesian female migrant workers as well as the millions of women facing economic exploitation across the Muslim world today will face an entirely different story under the Khilafah system that has a credible, time-tested approach to tackling poverty as well as maintaining the dignity and wellbeing of women. It is a state that implements a sound economic system that rejects the flawed interest-based capitalist model of finance, prohibits hoarding of wealth or privatisation of natural resources and invests heavily in the development of infrastructure, agriculture, industry, and technology. Its basis and policies therefore seek the effective distribution of wealth to ensure that the basic needs of all citizens are fulfilled while also laying the foundation for sound economic productivity to challenge mass unemployment and enable individuals to secure luxuries. This will enable men to fulfil their obligation of providing for their families, while at the same time the state is obliged to provide for those women who do not have male relatives to maintain them.
We call the women of Indonesia, Malaysia, and across the Muslim world to support urgently the obligatory work for the re-birth of the Khilafah that will establish a sincere Khaleefah who will lift their economic burdens from their backs and place it upon his shoulders. We call them to engage in this noble political struggle that promises great rewards from their Creator (swt) and will establish a state that will transform them from an economic commodity to a dignified, protected, and respected human being – for in Islam the woman deserves no less.
الر كِتَابٌ أَنْزَلْنَاهُ إِلَيْكَ لِتُخْرِجَ النَّاسَ مِنَ الظُّلُمَاتِ إِلَى النُّورِ بِإِذْنِ رَبِّهِمْ إِلَى صِرَاطِ الْعَزِيزِ الْحَمِيدِ
“Alif Lam Ra This is a Book We have sent down to you so that you can bring mankind from the darkness to the light, by the permission of their Lord, to the Path of the Almighty, the Praiseworthy.” [Ibrahim, 14:1]
Dr. Nazreen Nawaz
Central Media Representative, Hizb-ut Tahrir
Thursday, 16 Dhul Hijjah 1433 AH